What is the Blue Book for Social Security? – Community News
Social Security

What is the Blue Book for Social Security?

The Blue Book, formally titled Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, lists restrictions that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers severe enough to prevent a person from working and lays down the medical criteria for determining whether that person can receive disability benefits.

Previously printed and bound, but now published exclusively online, the Blue Book is an essential resource for Social Security examiners applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the two disability benefit programs that administers the SSA, and for medical professionals who provide evidence to support patient disability claims.

If a condition is in the Blue Book, it inherently meets the SSA definition of disability: an illness or injury that prevents you from engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (Social Security – speak for most paying work) for at least a year or likely to result in your death. For children, who can get SSI, the test is not work-related, but rather whether a condition is causing “marked and severe functional impairment.”

Just the diagnosis of a listed condition does not automatically qualify you for SSDI or SSI. The Blue Book describes in detail the symptoms, test results or other data that show that your condition is acute enough to be truly debilitating in the eyes of the agency, and the data you must submit to prove it.

As part of the disability determination process, SSA examiners will review your evidence against the Blue Book listing to see if you meet the requirements. Doing so is usually enough to get your claim approved. But it’s not necessarily disqualifying if you don’t. (See “Remember” below.)

The Blue Book has three main chapters:

  • Part I — General Information broadly describes the disability benefit programs and Social Security procedures for assessing claims, including the role of medical experts and professionals.
  • Part II — Evidence Requirements goes through the kind of paperwork, investigations, and other evidence that officials use to make those assessments.
  • Part III — List of impairments describes the conditions or families of related conditions that meet the disability standard in adults (Part A) and children (Part B) and the evidence that officials consider when assessing claims based on them, broken down by types of conditions or affected body systems, such as such as respiratory diseases, neurological disorders, hearing and vision loss, etc.

The lists are written for healthcare professionals. The medical requirements are strict and specific, and the language is often dense and complicated. But the Blue Book can be a valuable reference to help you and your doctors determine if you meet the requirements to receive disability benefits and prepare your application.


You can still receive SSDI or SSI if your condition is not specified in the Blue Book or if it is, but you do not fully meet the stated requirements. An examiner may determine that your disability or a combination of disabilities is “equal to the listings” in severity and effect on your ability to work. But the approval process will include additional steps and take longer.